There’s a bunch of things you should do to get your dog ready for surgery and help the day go smoothly. Veterinary technician Kate Basedow has tons of tips.
Taking your dog in for surgery – no matter how “small” — is stressful. But there are things you can do ahead of time to reduce anxiety and upset for both you AND your dog.
To make sure your dog is ready, get bloodwork ahead of time and any x-rays that your veterinarian recommends to check for heart problems and other important medical issues.
To make sure that YOU are ready, make sure that you:
- Know when your dog is last allowed to eat before surgery (and stick to it)
- Know what time to drop your dog off
- Have an estimate of the cost (and when it needs to be paid)
- If your dog is on meds or supplements, ask if they can be given the day of the surgery
- Have a cone or bodysuit on hand for your dog to protect the incision after surgery
Veterinary technician Kate Basedow discusses these tips and more to be sure that you and your dog are both ready for surgery day. Also read the companion article on our site: https://www.dogcancerblog.com/articles/full-spectrum-cancer-care/conventional/surgery/getting-your-dog-ready-for-surgery/
Links & Resources Mentioned in Today’s Show:
Recommended Elizabethan collars (cones)*:
- Clear Custom Collar secured with Velcro, like the Supet Dog Cone
- ConTech ProCone Soft Recovery Collar
- The Original Comfy Cone
Recommended Surgery Suit*:
*As an Amazon Associate we may earn from qualifying purchases.
About Today’s Guest, Kate Basedow, LVT:
Kate Basedow grew up training and showing dogs, and her passion for canines has affected all parts of her life. She earned a BA in English from Cornell University and an AAS in Veterinary Science from SUNY Delhi, and is a licensed veterinary technician in the state of New York. Her writing on dog-related topics has earned numerous awards from the Dog Writers’ Association of America and the Alliance of Purebred Dog Writers. Kate currently serves and adores two Belgian Tervuren and a Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
This episode is sponsored by the best-selling animal health book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity by Dr. Demian Dressler and Dr. Susan Ettinger. Available everywhere fine books are sold.
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[00:00:00] >> James Jacobson: Today’s show is brought to you by the bestselling book, the Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. It’s available everywhere books are sold in both paperback and digital additions and on the publisher’s website at DogCancerBook.com. Use coupon code PODCAST on that website to get 10% off the Dog Cancer Survival Guide today.
[00:00:30] >> Kate Basedow: Acclimation beforehand would definitely be the kinder thing. Get out your treats, have them wear the cone a little bit or put the body suit on and tell them how perfect they are, give them some treats, make it a normal sort of thing for them. They’ll think you’re weird, but whatever, you’re giving them treats. But that way you can avoid some of the stress of, okay, I’ve been at the vet’s all day, I’ve been cut open, oh, and now there’s a bucket on my head. Great.
[00:00:58] >> Announcer: Welcome to Dog Cancer Answers, where we help you help your dog with cancer. Here’s your host, James Jacobson.
[00:01:06] >> James Jacobson: Hello friend, and welcome. Today you are going to be listening to Part One in our series on surgery for your dog. And if you have a dog with cancer, often the best thing that you can do is to get surgery, and we talk about that in the Dog Cancer Survival Guide. And there’s so many things that you need to take into consideration if you are going to do surgery, whether it’s for cancer or anything else. And starting off with good planning is always a big part of the success that you can look forward to. So to discuss this topic, we have our associate producer, Kate Basedow, who is a licensed veterinary technician, joining us to talk about preparing your dog for surgery. Kate, first of all, welcome.
[00:01:58] >> Kate Basedow: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
[00:02:01] >> James Jacobson: It’s great to have you. So you have a background – let’s just credentialize you. You’ve been doing this for a while, this isn’t just something new for you.
[00:02:11] >> Kate Basedow: Yup, I grew up on a hobby farm with lots of animals and a veterinarian mother, so I was helping with vaccinations, and deworming the sheep, and basic care right from the get-go. We did put staples in one of my dog’s faces when I was probably 15 after she picked a fight with a muskrat and lost. Then I ended up going to school – well, I have a bachelor’s degree in English and then came back to my science side to get the veterinary technology degree, and worked in small animal practice for about four years.
[00:02:50] >> James Jacobson: Wow. Okay. So you, you know a thing or two, and you’ve talked to hundreds – thousands? – of clients about surgery over the years I would think.
[00:02:58] >> Kate Basedow: Definitely hundreds, might, eh, I’m not sure, thousands might be a little high.
[00:03:03] >> James Jacobson: Okay. Somewhere in that range. So what are some of your tips and suggestions on how people can prepare for the best outcome?
[00:03:13] >> Kate Basedow: One of the best things to do is pre-anesthetic blood work. Blood work can be expensive. It generally, a smaller panel will range from about $50 to a hundred. Some of the larger, more comprehensive panels could easily run a couple hundred dollars. And sometimes it can be like, well, my dog’s young, and healthy, and everything’s fine, I don’t really want to spend this money, but it’s nice to have that information. Because when your dog does go under anesthesia, the anesthesia drugs are processed by the liver and kidneys. So if we can do that blood work ahead of time and know if there’s any problems with the liver or the kidneys, the veterinary team can change up their drug protocols to make it a little easier on your dog or they can start giving IV fluids earlier instead of just running them while the dog is under anesthesia to help with hydration to support the kidneys.
[00:04:09] >> James Jacobson: And there could be some big risks, right? If you don’t, I mean, you can have an otherwise healthy looking dog, but he could have some underlying issues that would make the anesthesia dangerous, so knowing this ahead of time is really worth it.
[00:04:23] >> Kate Basedow: Oh yeah. Both the liver and the kidneys put on a good show. They try to keep working. The kidneys, you don’t start seeing clinical signs of kidney failure until 75% of the kidneys are gone and not salvageable anymore. So doing blood work ahead of time to say, okay, the liver and, and/or the kidneys are looking a little funky, can help with making decisions like, should we just change up our drug protocol, or should we postpone this procedure and get the dog started on some sort of liver support or kidney support medication to address the problem and then come back to surgery.
[00:05:04] >> James Jacobson: So is this, this blood work, is – this is something that obviously can be done in the vet’s office, but how long do they get the results?
[00:05:12] >> Kate Basedow: It depends. Most veterinary hospitals can do at least some blood work in-house. Um, some of the more involved tests you’ll have to send out to a lab, which can, depending on the lab and the location of your practice and where you live, you could get results as early as the next morning, or it might take a couple days, and some of the tests require additional procedures and preparation of the blood samples, which can make it take a little longer. But if it’s a test that’s being run in house, your veterinary team can do it right then and there and usually you have results within half an hour.
[00:05:51] >> James Jacobson: That’s awesome. Okay, and so it’s well worth the investment, you say about 50, a hundred dollars, something like that.
[00:05:56] >> Kate Basedow: Yeah. And, um, you can do it ahead of time, at like a checkup appointment, or often just a technician appointment where you just bring your dog in, they draw the blood and run it, you head on your merry way and then they call with their results later.
Or you can plan on doing pre-op blood work the day of the surgery. Most veterinarians will let you do the blood work up to a month in advance. If your dog is having some problems, and definitely for cancer patients, they’re probably going to want the blood work to be a little closer to surgery just to make sure that the information is as accurate as possible.
[00:06:32] >> James Jacobson: Got it. That’s a great tip. Okay. What else do you recommend in terms of preparing for surgery?
[00:06:38] >> Kate Basedow: If you’ve got a furry dog, or a dog who likes to get dirty, give them a bath BEFORE surgery. This is something that people a lot of times don’t think about, because you’re just focused on the procedure and you’re worried about that, and then your dog comes home and the technician is telling you that they can’t have a bath for the next two weeks, and you’re like, oh my God, I’m stuck with this stinky dog for two weeks. So give them a bath before surgery.
[00:07:06] >> James Jacobson: That sounds like a hard learned lesson.
[00:07:08] >> Kate Basedow: Thankfully I haven’t had to deal with that, but I’ve definitely had clients look at me like, what do you mean I can’t give them a bath?
[00:07:16] >> James Jacobson: I thought we would do it after the surgery! No, two weeks later, and we know that a lot of listeners to this show have their dogs sleep in their bed with them. So if you don’t want your stinky dog to sleep in your bed, give it a bath before you go in for surgery. That’s a great tip Kate.
[00:07:31] >> Kate Basedow: Yeah. And another thing is to buy a cone, or an Elizabethan collar, the "cone of shame," or a body suit intended to protect the incision ahead of time, so that you know you have something in hand that can protect your dog’s incision after the surgery, and you know it already fits well.
[00:07:52] >> James Jacobson: And do you want to like get the dog at all used to it, or like introduce it, or is it a surprise when you, when you, after the surgery?
[00:08:00] >> Kate Basedow: Acclimation beforehand would definitely be the kinder thing. Get out your treats, have them wear the cone a little bit or put the body suit on, and tell them how perfect they are, give them some treats, make it a normal sort of thing for them. They’ll think you’re weird, but whatever, you’re giving them treats. But that way you can avoid some of the stress of, okay, I’ve been at the vet’s all day, I’ve been cut open, oh, and now there’s a bucket on my head. Great.
[00:08:28] >> James Jacobson: I think that’s such great advice.
I’ve never heard that before, but it’s such a great thing because, uh, yeah, it does feel like, what I just went through all this and now this big – and the ones that you get at the vet’s office are both really expensive and, at least from my own experience, were really uncomfortable and not, and they’re kind of silly. But there’s a lot of stuff ahead of time that you can find. Do you have some recommendations for – ’cause I’ve seen like the inflatable ones, and I’ve seen all sorts of things.
Do you have some thoughts on that?
[00:08:57] >> Kate Basedow: Personally, I don’t trust the inflatable doughnut ones. My dogs have very long noses, and I would be concerned that they could reach around and still get at the incision. So I tend to stick with a standard plastic cone. I do also have a, like, stiff canvas one that’s got a couple support bars, sort of, so that’s nice ’cause it’s a little more flexible, so when the dog lays down, it collapses and they can lay flat a little easier,
[00:09:28] >> James Jacobson: I like those ones.
[00:09:28] >> Kate Basedow: -But we still have, yeah, the stability. And a lot of people have been happy with the body suits. You can get them in any color and design you can imagine. And – or for some dogs, just a plain t-shirt will work, especially if it’s an incision, like kind of on the shoulders or the neck, a t-shirt or a turtleneck can cover the area and provide adequate protection.
[00:09:53] >> James Jacobson: We will put some links in the show notes to some body suits that may be appropriate, and some of Kate’s other picks. And those are in the show notes because this is the type of stuff that people really want to know. So what are some other tips, Kate?
[00:10:06] >> Kate Basedow: Ask about an estimate for the procedure ahead of time.
Take it with a grain of salt, because often we don’t know exactly – especially with a surgery to remove a lump or a tumor – we don’t know exactly how involved the procedure’s going to be until we get in there. So that’s why they give you a range, but usually they’re pretty good at eyeballing how much something is going to cost.
[00:10:30] >> James Jacobson: Because, because time is money.
So if they go in and then decide, or see that there’s a lot more to do, it takes longer in surgery, which is more of the veterinarian’s time, and more, uh, if there’s a anesthesiologist or a vet nurse who’s going along with it, it’s just going to take longer and therefore cost more.
[00:10:48] >> Kate Basedow: Yup. Exactly. Some lipomas – fatty tumors – are encapsulated, and those, when the veterinarian opens up the area with the incision, they literally just pop out. It’s super quick and easy, just pop it out, sew the dog up, everything’s great. But if the tumor is more diffuse and attached to tissues underneath, it can take a while to parse out and get that out of there, especially if there’s a lot of blood supply and blood vessels in the area, because the veterinarian has to ligate and close up every single one of those blood vessels so that your dog doesn’t bleed out. And that can take a while depending on the location and how involved the procedure is. And that whole time your dog’s on anesthesia, and getting fluids, and there are multiple people there paying 100% attention to your dog.
[00:11:44] >> James Jacobson: So that’s why you should take the estimate with a grain of salt, because you never know what’s going to happen until, uh, until the surgery starts. That’s a great tip. Kate, this is awesome. I’m going to stop you right here, we’re going to take a break, but when we come back, we have some more tips from Kate Basedow. Stay tuned.
What else do you have?
[00:12:05] >> Kate Basedow: Ask about the drop-off time ahead of time, and if the dog will need to stay overnight. For most routine procedures at most clinics they’ll send the dog home the same day, usually toward the end of the day, but sometimes for more involved procedures or if something goes wrong, they might want to keep your dog overnight for observation to make sure everything’s okay.
That can also happen if the incision’s in an area that’s really fragile. Like any incision over a joint where motion could potentially open the stitches, the surgeon might want to keep your dog overnight just to be sure that they’re staying still and quiet and to address any problems that might arise immediately.
Also ask if they want you to give any medications that your dog is on in the morning, on the morning of the surgery or not. Some medications they will want you to give, others they’ll want you to wait and just bring with you at the time of drop off. A couple of supplements can act as blood thinners, and so you’re going to want to stop those, usually a week or two before your dog is having surgery. A couple of the ones that can cause that issue are dietary enzymes, fresh ginger root, krill and fish oil, and Wobenzym N, but if you’re unsure about any of your dog’s supplements, run it by your veterinarian before they’re going to go under anesthesia for surgery.
[00:13:30] >> James Jacobson: Good advice.
[00:13:32] >> Kate Basedow: Another important thing to think about, which is hard for all of us, is about whether or not you want lifesaving measures done if your dog goes into cardiac arrest. Most veterinary hospitals will have some sort of DNR – do not resuscitate – form where they will ask you if they want your dog to be resuscitated and to get CPR, or if you would prefer to just let the dog go if they head out.
[00:14:00] >> James Jacobson: So is this DNR part of all that paperwork – because oftentimes when you go to the vet for surgery, there’s like this ream of paper, sign here, sign here, and you’re literally signing things and, I’m sure we all are, you know, astute lawyers who know, never sign anything until you’ve read it, but I think sometimes in the heat of the moment, whatever, you’re just signing. Is that DNR contained in that, or is it a separate agreement usually?
[00:14:25] >> Kate Basedow: It’ll depend on the clinic. Usually it’s in that stack that they’re handing you, whether it’s on its own page or built into everything might vary. Um, you can also ask for that surgery paperwork ahead of time.
I know we loved it when people would show up on the morning of their surgery with their surgery paperwork already filled out. It streamlines the drop-off process, and gives the owner time to really read through and understand everything or to note places where they have questions for us, to be like, what does this mean?
Like if my dog – ’cause CPR can mean a couple different things. If you’re at your regular veterinary practice, that would probably mean basic CPR with chest compressions and giving oxygen via a tube, whereas if your dog is having surgery at a specialty clinic or a university, they may be capable of doing open chest CPR, where they open up your dog’s chest and actually are working directly on the heart. And doing that – open chest CPR is significantly more expensive than standard CPR.
So that’s something to think about, as awful as it can be to contemplate those sorts of situations.
[00:15:38] >> James Jacobson: Well, if you’re prepared for anything that can happen in surgery, it’s probably a really good thing. And thinking about a DNR, uh, for a dog, especially if a dog that is in the midst of cancer treatment, is probably a smart decision.
[00:15:54] >> Kate Basedow: Absolutely.
[00:15:55] >> James Jacobson: What else do you got for us Kate?
[00:15:57] >> Kate Basedow: Um, so on the night before the surgery you’ll want to feed your dog dinner at its normal time. Resist the temptation to give a special last meal. Just stick to it, where – I know, I feel the same way, I always want to give my dog something extra special.
[00:16:15] >> James Jacobson: But this could be the last meal ever!
[00:16:18] >> Kate Basedow: Yup, but if you give that cheeseburger, or that pork chop, your dog could potentially get diarrhea, or start vomiting, and those sorts of things could mean the surgery has to be postponed or that your dog has a little rougher time the next day. So resist the temptation, stick with the normal dog food, and give the normal evening medications. Ask your veterinary staff ahead – and usually they’ll call you a day or two before the surgery, both to confirm your appointment and to go over the exact details, but most of them will want you to withhold food for 12 to 24 hours before the surgery, usually eight to 12 hours.
[00:17:01] >> James Jacobson: Now why is that?
[00:17:02] >> Kate Basedow: So that’s because sometimes dogs, when they’re under anesthesia, will throw up, either vomit or regurgitate. And if there’s food in the stomach, that food or liquid could potentially be vomited up into the mouth and then go down the trachea into the lungs. And you don’t want your dog to aspirate food or water, food and water don’t belong in the lungs, it causes all kinds of problems.
And normally when your dog throws up, they just throw up the food. But when they’re under anesthesia, they’ve lost their swallow reflex, so all of those airways are wide open.
[00:17:41] >> James Jacobson: What else?
[00:17:42] >> Kate Basedow: Um, another note on the food is to make sure that everyone in the family is on the same page about when your dog is allowed to have food or not before surgery.
So you don’t want Uncle Fred walking in at two in the morning and giving the dog a hot dog just because.
[00:18:00] >> James Jacobson: ‘Goin in for surgery, I made you a Ballpark.
[00:18:03] >> Kate Basedow: So like, make sure everyone in the house knows, okay, Daisy can’t have any food after midnight tonight. She might be allowed to have a little bit of water in the morning, but no breakfast, hold strong.
[00:18:15] >> James Jacobson: I’m guessing that may come from hard learned lessons that you’ve seen as a vet technician.
[00:18:22] >> Kate Basedow: Yup. And the staff feels bad too, because if a dog has had breakfast right before a procedure, usually the vets will try to postpone that surgery at least for a couple hours to let the food get past the stomach into the intestines.
And that just throws off the schedule for the whole day. It means your dog is going to have the surgery later, which then means they’re ready to go home later, they might end up needing to stay the night, or in some cases, if a patient is at high risk for anesthesia complications anyway, the doctor might choose to postpone the surgery to another day for that.
[00:19:00] >> James Jacobson: Great advice. So Uncle Fred, no hotdogs. This is awesome, a lot of really useful tips. And our series continues on the next episode, where Kate will walk us through tips for the day of surgery. Kate Basedow, thank you so much for being with us today.
[00:19:19] >> Kate Basedow: You are very welcome. Thank you.
[00:19:23] >> James Jacobson: And thank you for joining us on Dog Cancer Answers. As I alluded to, there’s a lot of information in the show notes, so please check that out. And if you have a dog with cancer, because why else would you be listening or watching this right now, you probably want to check out our Facebook support group.
It is a community of dog lovers who are going through exactly what you are. And you can find that at DogCancerSupport.com, and that’s just a quick link to our Facebook forum. And of course also please subscribe to Dog Cancer News, because that comes out three times a week with really useful, helpful information, some of it written by Kate, some of it written by other people on our team. And you can get a free subscription to Dog Cancer News at DogCancerNews.com. I’m James Jacobson, and on behalf of everyone here at Dog Podcast Network, thanks for joining us today. Aloha.
[00:20:22] >> Announcer: Thank you for listening to Dog Cancer Answers. If you’d like to connect, please visit our website at DogCancerAnswers.com or call our Listener Line at (808) 868-3200. And here’s a friendly reminder that you probably already know: this podcast is provided for informational and educational purposes only. It’s not meant to take the place of the advice you receive from your dog’s veterinarian.
Only veterinarians who examine your dog can give you veterinary advice or diagnose your dog’s medical condition. Your reliance on the information you hear on this podcast is solely at your own risk. If your dog has a specific health problem, contact your veterinarian. Also, please keep in mind that veterinary information can change rapidly.
Therefore, some information may be out of date. Dog Cancer Answers is a presentation of Maui Media in association with Dog Podcast Network.
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Maui, Hawaii, USA
James is one of the hosts on Dog Cancer Answers and founder of the Dog Podcast Network, a series of shows dedicated to all things dog.